Posts Tagged ‘Conservatives’

Let me take you back. It’s September 2014 and David Cameron faces the very real prospect of being the Prime Minister who oversaw the demise of the United Kingdom.

Scotland is to vote on independence and the polls are horrifyingly close. Cameron the hard-nosed Tory melts away and his soggy leftovers entreat the Scots to stay.

Nicola Sturgeon. Photo: Scottish Government (www.flickr.com/photos/scottishgovernment)

Nicola Sturgeon. Photo: Scottish Government (www.flickr.com/photos/scottishgovernment)

Yet if a week is a long time in politics, imagine seven months. Those who agitated for independence lost the vote, but still the Tories have surrendered Scotland to them.

The Conservative campaign now takes it as given that the Scottish National Party will win the Caledonian constituencies, leaving Labour short of a majority on May 7.

What’s more, Cameron and co continue to insist that Labour will make a deal with the SNP, no matter how often or loudly Ed Miliband denies it.

This is partly about winning Tory votes in England – reaffirming unionist values on one hand, while implying Labour links with secessionists on the other.

Just as important though is the effect on Scottish voters. Every anti-Tory is being told you can vote SNP and get Labour just the same – no need to be tactical.

Under normal circumstances, anything that puts your rivals further from power is par for the course, but this loss is not a Conservative gain – the SNP get the spoils.

I won’t be voting for them, but I know Labour are the last levee against the nationalist flood and I would rather they ran the UK, than the Tories ran what’s left of it.

Besides, how woeful is the Conservative offering that they must endanger the union, not even to get a majority, but merely to keep its opponents from one?

Nor would a Tory majority, were it possible, protect our United Kingdom.

Only the blue team will hold a referendum on EU membership and only something like an EU exit would enable Nicola Sturgeon to push for another independence vote.

Plus there’s no doubt that a Conservative government would benefit the SNP – their independence rhetoric is laced with anti-Tory bluster which Labour would neutralise.

It’s doubtless true that the reds will take a beating in Scotland. Miliband may also go back on his word and jump into bed with the SNP, as his rivals say he will.

The political realities are what they are and merit discussion, but the Tory party and its supporters in the press have gone beyond this.

The Sun warns against the SNP in England, but rallies behind them in Scotland. After a debate, Conservative leaders praised Sturgeon for her performance.

This party wants to carve up our country. It deserves our contempt.

Make no mistake, the referendum has not settled the independence question “for a generation.” It has left a cut across the throat of our country – one that may not heal.

One people has started to think of itself as two. SNP membership has quadrupled and, in England, English votes for English laws and even a new Parliament are talked about.

With such a close result, nationalists will want the question asked again and again until they get the answer they want – it’s the neverendum.

Nationalism is the politics of division, left or right. Now is the time for our country to heal; to emphasise what unites us, not what separates us.

The election is done in a day. The United Kingdom must continue.

While politicos and pundits throw around statistics and debate policy, a great number of people are feeling right now the way I feel on match days – bored.

Photo: Bart Heird (www.flickr.com/photos/chicagobart)

Photo: Bart Heird (www.flickr.com/photos/chicagobart)

Every election I find myself trying to convince people I know to go out and vote, and every time I hear this argument: they’re all the same, none of them represent me.

At this point, some would try and push their party of choice, while others might try and give an unbiased account of each side. My problem is, I kind of get the argument.

In 2010, those who weren’t voting Labour or Conservative had a moderate third option in the Liberal Democrats and their centre-left manifesto.

But five years later, any Liberal manifesto is a risky proposition. Enacting higher tuition fees, party brass made clear that pre-election pledges count for nothing until Clegg gets a majority – a notion so far-fetched that the Dems can promise whatever they want.

Nor have teams red and blue become more attractive in the meantime. National debt, soaring under Labour, reached giddy new heights under the Coalition and though the economy is growing, so is wealth inequality, foodbank use and insecure employment.

Small parties offer one alternative, but each has its electoral baggage – from bigots to hippies – and you can only do so much to separate the two.

In any case, all options would require me to settle. Where I agree with a party on one thing, it’s negated by disagreement elsewhere. Besides, my vote makes precisely no difference in my staunchly Tory constituency.

If all this seems to be building to some puerile argument for refusing to take part altogether, rest assured it’s not, I’m simply saying we should vote for Batman.

A self-starter, the aforementioned Bruce Wayne recovered from personal tragedy and built a business empire, he recognises the value of investing in technology and takes a hardline on crime. He’s community minded.

I mean, I only saw the films, but that’s what I got from it.

Granted, he’s a fictional character – one that’s ominously quiet about the deficit and foreign policy – yet if I’m wasting my vote anyway, why not make a point of it?

With any other approach, it’s an all-or-nothing game. Don’t vote and you appear not to care, however principled your abstention. Vote for a party and you may as well support it heart and soul.

In my university days, there was a way to take part in student democracy without voting for the self-important twerps who’d plastered their faces on every building.

His name was RON, meaning re-open nominations, and every year he ran for every position. He never won, but I liked his resilience and, like Batman, he had a use.

Those in power don’t concern themselves with non-voters. It’s no coincidence that so much policy is geared towards older people, who hit the polling booths in big numbers, while so little is aimed at young people, who don’t.

Snub the polls and they’ll govern like you aren’t watching, snub the parties and they’ll know that you are.

By voting for Batman – or more accurately, by scrawling the bat logo over the whole paper – you say: “Yes, I’ll vote, but not for any of this lot.”

David Cameron. Photo: Number 10 (www.flickr.com/photos/number10gov)

David Cameron. Photo: Number 10 (www.flickr.com/photos/number10gov)

Like so many of the foot soldiers in my inglorious profession, the trudge to the bottom of my career ladder felt a long one.

In the years before my first journalism job, I cleared tables, washed dishes, stacked shelves, sold suits and even (on one particularly fragrant occasion) scrubbed clean the walls of a recently vacated stable. Glamorous? No. Paid? Certainly.

Yet it wasn’t all fun and games. I remember well the reactions of Jobcentre staff to any aspirations above menial labour; I recall the time wasted on tailoring applications that were not even acknowledged with a refusal.

The life of a jobseeker is not that of a bon viveur. It wasn’t when I graduated amid a deep recession, nor is it today. Still, there was once a basic dignity in it if you were making an effort. Not for much longer it would seem.

David Cameron, our ever-sympathetic Prime Minister, has announced plans to force the jobless to do community work in exchange for their benefits.

If the measure sounds familiar, that’s because the words ‘community work’ very nearly describe a punishment meted out to petty criminals. It’s also not the first time people have been penalised by the coalition for struggling to find employment.

Under the government’s workfare scheme, jobless graduates worked unskilled roles on a full-time basis for big-money bosses. Their reward? Their paltry Jobseeker’s Allowance – an hourly rate of pay outrageously short of the minimum.

The premise, as ever, was to get more people into jobs by building their experience, but the logic was daft. What employer would create a paid position when there’s a massive free workforce available?

Thinking of it, I’m reminded of something my dad told me – one of those ‘back in the day’ stories about how he had left school on a Friday and walked into his first job on a Monday. Is investment in an untried young person now too onerous for employers?

Not that the taste is so sweet for those who are promoted into paid roles. I know people who work full time when their contracts stipulate a day’s worth of work. Their hours could be slashed at any moment, but they’re expected to keep the week free.

One of these people was berated by a previous boss for having the audacity to go home on time, being told their breaks (to which they’re statutorily entitled) obliged them to stay late. Clocking out times were, however, altered for staff to reflect their contracted hours.

Meanwhile, those plucky upstarts who would trouble their chiefs with tribunals have been dealt a blow, with steep fees enacted for those starting a case and smaller rewards for those who win them.

In the past, I’ve put this change in the workplace down to the economy – too many souls for too few jobs. But the much-proclaimed recovery we’re all supposed to be enjoying (which definitely isn’t debt fuelled) hasn’t abated things. Why?

Now I don’t consider myself a bolshy crusader or even particularly left wing, but the question I feel compelled to ask now seems an increasingly controversial one – can we not reward an honest day’s work with an honest day’s pay?